The Miraculous Dance of Grief and Gratitude

by | May 16, 2023 | Insights, Resilience

Last month, one of my sons was present and witness to a tragedy that took the life of a friend.

A 21-year old young man. A college junior studying medical diagnostics. This young man was about to complete his finals and return home to his family. Tragically, he did not return home.

As the chaotic and unfathomable events began to unfold several hundred miles away on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, my son FaceTimed me. We stayed together this way for hours, as he stepped into a leadership role with his friends, the first responders, and ultimately the grief counselor who appeared that evening.

Sadly, neither my son nor I are strangers to tragedy. And yet, as documented and predictable as the trauma and grief process is, it is impossible to escape its surreal effects, especially when it hits this close to home. Remarkably, my son seems okay, for now. (Though he is a pretty stoic individual, so time will tell.) As for me, well, I leapfrogged from one step in the trauma and grief curve to the next in pretty short order. Within a few days, I found myself deeply lodged in profound sadness. So heavy that I could feel it in every part of my body. That’s when my intuition guided me to Facebook:

The post was deliberately vague. We are all doing our best to respect the privacy of the grieving family. And that’s when the avalanche of love began. Phone calls, texts, emails, you name it. From people near and far. From close friends and family, and from folks I hadn’t seen in eons. Most didn’t ask what happened, merely wanted me to know they were sending me their love and support. It’s not that I was surprised that people responded. It’s that I was surprised that they knew what I didn’t in that moment: That their response was exactly (and all) that I needed. After that, and some praying, I gradually felt the heavy curtain of grief lift. I’m still sad, of course. But now I’m also able to function. I’ve been contemplating all of this for a few days. As I shared with my cousin in Israel, who emailed with an invitation to talk, I now understand why I posted what I did:

“I needed to activate that knowing that we are each one tiny strand in a web that connects all of humanity. I needed to give a gentle tug on my strand to let my little part of the web know I needed a hug. And that’s what came pouring in.”

“Of course, I didn’t know that at the time that I posted. But I do know it now. And I’ll be posting about that soon. Because it really is magical.”

Some of us identify as introverts, perfectly content to spend lots of time on our own. And yet we are, above all, social creatures. Irrefutably and undeniably connected. I am beyond grateful. Grateful that I trusted my intuition to share something, vague as it was. Grateful for the incredibly beautiful responses received. Grateful for the confirmation that we are, after all, strands in a crazy, beautiful, complicated and messy web. And finally, beyond grateful that I activated the web with my gentle tug. Coda: A mind read from the Universe Then, just as this idea of the dance between grief and gratitude took shape in my mind, my favorite local radio station 107.1 The Peak played this brand new song by Danielle Ponder. Enjoy.

Tracy Benson

Tracy Benson, Founder and CEO, On the Next Page, provides executive coaching to senior leaders and their teams in Fortune 500 companies across industries, including: healthcare, pharma, energy, technology, consumer goods, manufacturing, hospitality, defense and financial.

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